8.23.2010

Day 88, Your Church = Your Community.

The next time you are at your church take a good look around. Do a census in your head? What is the largest population in your church? Is it older people, middle age, or young? What would you say is the poorest family in your church? Who is the richest? What occupations do most people have? What common interest/hobbies are throughout the congregation? Does the spiritual maturity of the congregation move through all the levels or is focused primarily on one focus group, i.e. the 'old guy'? Do you have any ethnic groups in your church? Are there outsiders or rebellious looking people (tattoos, motorcycle, stereotypes) Has anyone in your church recovered from homosexuality, adultery or porn?

I asked this for a simple reason. If God has planted a church in a particular region of the country, shouldn't the church be a cross-section of the majority of the people in the culture?

Shouldn't you see the same people variety at your church as you would on a common trip to Wal-Mart?

We have such a tendency to group with people who look and feel like us. It's natural. I love being around reformed Chaplains/ministers. I love talking about Army deployments and my current video game crazy. I know I am drawn to people who are like me, but is that what I need to be pursuing?

Jesus ate with sinners. Does your church have room for these people?

Does my church in city X, look like a Saturday morning at Wal-mart?

8.07.2010

Day 87, The Waiting is Over.

After living out of a suitcase for the last 7 weeks, its official. I feel like I am home here in Texas, at least for right now.

Now, for the recap. On or about the 23rd of June, Jessica and I were contacted by the Chaplain Corp about a new assignment that I was getting here in Fort Hood Texas. I was quite surprised to find out that the Army's understanding of stability was moving from my overseas home in Germany to Fort Hood, and then deploying in about 30 days after getting settled in. Jessica and I held our breath and looked at the big picture. The big picture is: Chaplain's typically deploy only twice as a Captain, then we go school and wait until we get our Major before launching out again. Therefore, I will get the 2nd deployment completed and then prayerfully come home to enjoy about 2.5-3 years of non-deploying years.

After the news, we basically started saying our goodbyes and launched from Germany to Texas. Rented a house. Picked up our new dog, Major. Gave up the PC world and became a MAC family. Bought a guest bed as we wait for our furniture. Now sitting on a bed, A/C on...lab is asleep and Jessica is blogging beside me as well. (I feel home, and thus....THE WAIT IS OVER.)

Bottomline: I don't know how you define what 'home' is. But for the Army family...it truly is not bound to a location or particulars. Its a warm feeling of : "I just ate off of a real plate, and not plastic." ; "I just made it to Wal-mart or the PX w/o using the GPS."; "I know where my unit is."; "I just had a Starbucks and the cashier recognized me from the day before."; "We went to the same church twice, and we are no longer 'looking' for a church."; "Inprocessing is over."; or hear 4 people sing you happy birthday that you didn't know from Adam 2 weeks ago. --kind'a love this life.

These things make that , "I am home feeling" come to life.

7.10.2010

Day 85, Wondering Where COB Speicher?

Its true. It looks like I am heading to Iraq for part II. I found this video on YOUTUBE that is funny, and is the actual place that I am going downrange. For those of us who have actually seen Iraq, this is pretty stink'n accurate of those FOB's that you long to go to, but never got the chance. Well, this time CH Craven is heading to COB Speicher! (well, atleast I think I am. ALWAYS SUBJECT TO CHANGE.)

Day 85, Not Your Grand-Dads Army.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I did a single soldiers retreat down in Bavaria/Edelweiss. It was another learning experience for me. In the midst of the normal 'taking care of soldiers', I made an observation that may or may not be the complete normal of the Army culture, but definitely was for the group that attended the event.

Observations:
-Out of the 46 that attended the event, over 95% of them were wearing black or dark t-shirts. Of course, the overwhelming majority of them also have tattoos as well.

-After discussing values of marriage, the overwhelming majority saw: (1) Family History of your spouse, (2) their personal values/beliefs, as not truly contributing factors on whether or not their relationship was compatible.

-Upon dismissing them from most of my sessions, a small majority of them would actually go experience the ALPs, while the rest would have no problem with traversing the 2 mile walk downtown to bars and strip-clubs.

-There was absolutely no talking on the bus there and back (6-8 hours one way). Ipods are dawned upon getting on the bus, and exiting like a ritual. The occassional interaction is only done at a smoke-break/bus stop.

- With a little help from the Chaplain, they managed to lessen the GD's and F-bombs while we were at the retreat center. 

Bottomline: Now, I serve as a Chaplain to reach these guys with the love and gospel of Jesus. So, I am not saying this negatively, but please read. I believe that respect and support for our military should be highly endorsed, but also fully recognized and understood. Just because a young man/woman wears the military uniform does not constitute a fine citizen. This blind patriotism toward the uniform diminishes the honorable soldiers by lumping all soldiers into one. We operate as a unit in the Army, but we also will be accountable for our individual actions. Thus, saying all are 'heroes' or 'felons' blankets some into categories that I believe are unearned or undeserved. (I hope that makes sense).

The first time I saw my "CRAVEN" nametag on my uniform at Fort Jackson, 1998...I filled with pride, and also felt the weight of responsibility to carry that name. On one side of the uniform was my name, the other the US ARMY. I belong to both, I give an answer to both. But, I pray live a life that rightfully deserve the honor that goes with them.

6.19.2010

Day 84: Bowling History Made.


Reporting live from Baumholder, Germany. Last night, Chaplain John L. Craven bowled a historic 203 at Strikers Bowling. A legitimate 203. It is true. I know its hard to imagine such a moment. This very blog clearly validates the event. Let's go live to John's remarks

...(static)...ANNOUNCER: [Crowd noise almost deafening] John,...Mr. John Craven...can I get a word from you in response to this historic moment...[horns blowing in the background]

John: "Yes,... of course. [being let down from the shoulders of the Mayor of Baumholder, putting down the key to the city.] I know this is hard to imagine and I have much to be thankful for....my mind is just racing...[receives a cold cup of water from COL Matlock]....Thank you sir...you shouldn't have.

Ok...[crowd silences and hushes]...

I just want to thank all the following people. My dad for all the countless trips to the bowling alley during my youth and grade school years as a celebration for good grades. To all the many countless lock-ins with youth groups that taught me how to bowl in the worst conditions at 4am. To all the many dates through high school and to Kenny Kuykendall for the numerous Senior skip days at Snellville Bowling alley. Finally, to my beautiful wife who has been there to deliver the first true competition and to my new girl...who enjoyed her first game as I delivered such a memorable day! This Day! [The crowd erupts...balloons rise!]

Bottomline: Ok it was just a 203! But this is what goes on in a mans head.

6.18.2010

Day 83. My New Position: Daddy

As you may know the Reformed Chaplain has been dormant for just about 2 months now. My pen has been silent for a reason. On May 3 of this year, Jessica and I became mother and daddy of a beautiful new addition to our family, Angie.

Now, two full months have just about passed this date. My role as Husband to a spectacular wife has now been further enhanced with a new position: Daddy. At a recent BBQ, I had a good friend ask me: So, how is parenthood? I had to stop for a second and think.

My answer: "Well, I think back on my days of being single and then getting married on April 23. I woke up the same. I still drove the same. I still brushed my teeth. Not much 'felt' different, but by the end of the day...I had assumed a new responsibility. I clearly remember looking at my ring on my finger that evening and thinking, "so, now I'm married. Nice." I kind'a felt the same. No major shift in my personality or thinking with Angie. I know that God has prepared me up to this point in order to be a God-glorifying parent. It just fits."

I know most people want a colorful and joyous exposition of romanticized lights, sounds and tears of joy. (For that go to my wife's blog, :) ) But for me, my concern was : Will I be a good Dad? Will I be able to adapt to Angie...and vice-versa?

All this anxiety is wrapped into one word: Providence. God orchestrates every event in life. Good or Bad for His glory. I know that God shapes my life and is shaping my life right now. The things that I grow anxious about or think are ridiculous, I find myself months or years later, rejoicing in the fact that God prepared me for this or that through those events. Will I be the 'Father's Day Champion' this year, and live a blameless upright life? I doubt it, but I know with faith in Jesus Christ as my provider, I can get pretty darn close.

THE BOTTOMLINE:
So, for all you new dads or new 'husbands'...God has equipped you and prepared you to do this 'new position'...don't fret or become anxious about how good you will be or how bad you will be. Follow Christ, ask for His wisdom. Trust his guidance.

4.26.2010

Day 82, Mondays: LOL.

There are a few things that make me laugh out loud. A couple of TV shows, Heidi's antics, Jessica's story-telling...etc. But there is nothing better than having one of those belly laughing moments when you are really needing to just laugh. Laughing is a lot like crying, everyone needs a good one every now and then.

So, in light of this thought, I will dedicate my MONDAY EDITIONS to LOL. Things that make me laugh. It might be a joke or two or just a goofy YouTube video, but either way, enjoy.
*****************

Things That Make Me LOL.
THIS WEEK: Charlie the Unicorn




While we have been in the field training, I have had the strong desire to be serious about my work. Going to ranges and seeing soldiers takes up a majority of my time. Later in the evenings, as I have mentioned earlier I space out for just a few minutes and watch a couple of goofy YouTube videos between the meetings.  I stumbled across this, which is quite senseless and stupid...but after 30 days w/o your wife...you do start slowly losing your mind.

4.25.2010

Day 81, Conversative Military Chaplains Face Challenges Ahead


(Above Clip, comes from Stars and Stripes Wednesday April 20, 2010.)
There is a lot of speculation floating around regarding the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell Policy" (DADT) on how it will effect the military. Obviously, I have great concerns regarding this. I love the Army. I love being so close to a people group that desperately needs to hear more of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is far from easy. The strain on families during a war on two fronts leaves a ministering Chaplain with not the problem of 'who' do I minister to, but more of a ' Out of the multitudes I can minister to, God please direct me." There is a desperate need for a Evangelical presence in the military, if we are truly about reaching ALL people with the Great Commission. The advancing repeal of the policy could possibly prompt an "exodus of many conservative Chaplains".
So, as I look ahead at some of the possible ramifications of the repeal of this DADT policy, these are some of the challenges that you may or may not be aware of that are on the forefront of Chaplain Specific Challenges :

1. Performing Same Sex Marriages.
2. Sensitivity Preaching in regards to passages in the Bible that speak of Homosexuality as a sin.
3. Leading Marriage Retreats that would involve homosexual partners.
4. Homosexual Chaplains, endorsed by supportive denominations, who would preach this view in Community Chapels on Post.
5. Sensitivity training to soldiers in regards to the acceptance of homosexuality behavior.

These are speculations and do not represent any proposed Department of Defense policies. They are just the current proposed issues that the Chaplain Corp is working through in the event that this policy is reversed in the near future.  Yet, as we think ahead to the issues of DADT, it should be apparent to all there is going to be some hurdles for Evangelicals regarding this.

Continue in prayer for these issues.

4.20.2010

Day 80, From Coffee to Monsters.

I remember when I was in basic training our Drill Sergeants told us to save our 'Sanka-Instant Coffee' in order for us to eat on it as we did our final 12 mile road march at Fort Jackson. I thought it was silly, but as we went into our 72 hours of barely sleeping days, it was almost a necessity to stay awake.

12 years later,...I have seen Mountain Dew, Jolt, Red Bull, Rip-Its, Tiger, and now Monster become a staple for the Joe and the Officers. No longer is the coffee pot the only meeting ground for discussion about upcoming missions but 50 ft from a public building where you will see a gaggle of cigarettes and the latest ridiculously over-sized Monster drinks. It doesn't matter what time,...0800 to 2330...it really doesn't matter.

I do drink my share of caffeine. I have my several cups of coffee before lunch, but that's where it stops. I tried a couple of Red Bulls, and at 35 I could feel my heart race and I couldn't even read because my eyes were jumping so much on the page. I have no idea what happens to these guys who are drinking 3 or 5 Red Bulls or Monsters throughout the day.

Now, the only thing that I have noticed is the overwhelming majority of soldiers/officers do complain about problems sleeping. Is there a correlation to this? I think its a no brainer.

Bottomline: Nutrition plays a vital role in how we live and relate to those people around us. I am not sure what the infatuation is with being constantly strung out on Energy Drinks? But I think its pretty clear that our bodies are not indestructible. Moderation is the key. I enjoy a good cup of coffee, and a bowl of pipe tobacco,...but I don't depend on them for who I am or an added boost to make it through the day. Once the 'whatever-it-is' becomes a 'have-to-have',...it may have crossed a fine line.

4.17.2010

Day 79, Seeing People Eye to Eye.

In the Army we have a standard uniform for just about everything. On the typical post you will see most soldiers in ACU's (the digital looking uniform), boots, a beret,...etc.  When you are in a deployed or training environment we have the ACU's plus knee pads, elbow pads, a protective vest with various attachments, helmet and eye-protection. In a massive formation its pretty difficult to see people as individuals in such 'uniformity'. Everyone seems to blend in with each other. Even within a unit that you know people on a first name basis its very easy to just simple walk by 100's of soldiers and never truly notice them as people who have lives and families.

Even as a Chaplain walking around to see soldiers I have to consciously make efforts to take off my eye-protection (sun-glasses) and gloves so that I look at people eye to eye and get a real hand shake. I know that seems very odd, but it seems that we are so used to being 'pass over' that this touch of sensitivity seems to help humanize us. Just as simple as getting to know people's first names, ...and remembering it.

Now this doesn't apply just to the Army, but it shows itself up in the 1100 Sunday Morning order of Worship when people are encouraged to walk around the sanctuary and 'greet each other'. I find it all together disturbing when people shake my hand and before I can say "Its good to see you today", they have already scoped out the next hand to shake and are not even looking at me eye to eye. This is when I throw a random, nonsensical word out, just to reiterate bizarre behavior.  So, what's the challenge? I would much rather meet one person, and get to know them personally than to see 1,000 people superficially.

Bottomline: We will never know everyone, but we do know those people that are sitting and living right beside us everyday. Take the time to know more about them than just the everyday "I am fine." The church should be the first to lead in this. We should value the individual and their lives enough to listen and engage them EYE to EYE. Stop thinking about YOU, and focus on them.



But the eye protection adds another difficulty, you can't see their eyes.

4.16.2010

Day 78, Friends and their Youtube Selections.

Just recently the Army has lifted its ban from government computers for visiting sites like Youtube and Facebook. Now, after about 36 hours of this being lifted I have noticed quite the phenomenon. The scenario looks as follows.

A computer savvy individual is surfing through the latest Youtube post. As you approach or pass him by, he looks up from his computer and notices you. Politely he asks, "Hey, wanna see something cool?" Of course, its rude to continue walking because he has simply asked for a moment of your time. You slow your pace, stand behind his shoulder and watch as he loads or reloads a video he has just watched. Little do you know that this is just the beginning. Just as soon as the 2:32 min clip ends, he says, "Oh, have you seen this...". This pattern continues as the individual effortless sifts through an endless queue of clips. Your personal interest in 'the biggest Zit' or 'world's stupidest game show contestant', has been completely lost.

You desperately want to leave, but it continues and continues...when does it stop?

Have you been there?

Bottomline: I wonder how much time do we spend in front of videos or other media that we have no personal interest, yet because of our own cultural politeness we will not dismiss ourselves. Is it inappropriate to decline from things that are not beneficial? If so, how do you do it? If not, how much time in our life will we subject yourselves to this? As our culture waters rise around us, we must consciously be aware of what we willing absorb. Scriptures teach Christians to 'set our minds on things above, where Christ is'...Ask yourself: Does this help me set my mind on things above, or other things?

4.15.2010

Day 77, Where did the 'collection' of the Bible come?

I am reading a new book this week. I love to read things that makes me rethink what I have forged in my head or is putting together some of the bizarre questions that I have often had, but refused to try to answer because I was nervous the answer.

For many Christians, the question regarding where the Bible came from is almost non-existent. But think about it! Where did this collection come? Did it just 'POOF!', here it is? Did Moses receive the 66 book collection? You may have heard of the Canon of Scripture, but what group of guys put this collection together that constituted the 'Bible'? Were these guys infallible in their decision making process? Do we have all the books necessary? A lot of these questions should keep us all humble and eager to worship the God revealed in Scriptures and not the Bible by itself? It is God's Word. But, I understand it to be the revelation of God, not God himself.

Before I create more questions, let me give you TWO STATEMENTS TO LOOK AT. Then ask you to decide which is YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF SCRIPTURE!

1. The Bible is an infallible collection of infallible books.
2. The Bible is a fallible collection of infallible books.

You may be surprised!

4.09.2010

Day 76, Check and Recheck.

I think it would be safe to say that when you join the Army that if you are a touch OCD, you might find yourself better off than seen as abnormal. Checking and Rechecking your daily task is completely normal.

What does this look like? Here is just a list of some of the daily questions tasks:

How many alarm clocks have you set before you go to bed? I have 3.
Before you pack to go on a trips, do you check tire pressure, oil, your safety/emergency kit,...make sure water and snacks are in reach, and a blanket is packed?  Maps, two routes, 1 extra oil qt, ...shall I continue?
Do you have 3 daily planners (phone numbers, calendars, and to do task that are updated each morning simultaneously at 0600.) When you have an event, is arriving 25-30 minutes early completely normal? while arriving 5 minutes early is late?
Do you have a routine for everything?
Do you honk the horn just a little every time you back up?
Do you check and recheck your wallet to make sure your wallet has your ID Card in it before you leave the house and drive off post?
Do you lay out your clothes every night for the next day, so that you can sleep 5 minutes longer?

Yes, its a crazy job. Yes after a deployment soldiers struggle with adjustment to 'garrison'. Soldiers even struggle with trying to understand why Civilians don't see the same 'urgency' with daily tasks. When I returned from Iraq in May last year, it took almost 2 weeks for me to stop doing my morning rituals as I did in Iraq.

Soldiers are different, but an attention to detail and routine saves our lives over and over again. It is this routine that many say is OCD, is what helps the soldier see a patch in the road or disturbed dirt laying near a trash pile as a potential threat. It is this type of muscle memory that reacts when catastrophe lands without warning.

Bottomline: I just wanted to give a little insight into the daily life of a soldier in the United States Army. Enjoy your sleep.

4.08.2010

Day 75, The Missing Link (Woman)

Ok, I am sitting down at a Sushi Bar in Crystal City (Metro Stop, in Washington DC).  It was about 700pm, and I was finishing up a delicious Spider Roll and some green tea. I pulled out the Itouch in my fleece front pocket, tapped shuffle and grabbed a couple of bucks to buy a day pass on the metro to grab the blue train downtown. 6 mins later, I am enjoying one of my favorite parts of public transportation. (People watching). Listen to Derek Webb, I zone out and watch the stops go by, as I await for my stop, Smithsonian.
I purposefully stand at the announcement and walk to the door, ...within in another 2-3 minutes I am standing directly dead center of the Mall in DC. (not a shopping mall, but the center 'lawn area' between the Capitol/Washington Monument/Lincoln Memorial.

The sky was a nice cloudy day with a red reflection from the setting sun, which truly made the moment surreal as the lit white marble stood in contrast to the backdrop. Nice.

Yet somewhere in my soul I just thought, something is missing. My belly was fully of sushi, my ears were engaging some great lyrics, my eyes were soaking glorious sights. What was missing? She was not there.

Scriptures teach in Genesis 2:18, a truth that men have a innate created deficiency before the fall. "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.". God creates out of man, the woman to be his much needed compliment.

Sadly our culture rejects this notion adamantly. Portrayed like facades on decaying building, is the notion that men/women can live perfectly self-sufficient (and enjoy it). Yet socially it seems hypocritical that we criticize the 35+ single man or woman who has lived out this image in reality. The lie is that humanity that submits to the notion of marriage has somehow emasculated themselves, no matter the sex. They can no longer roam free. (Yet don't roam free too long, because you must somehow balance your 'freedom' with not becoming a abnormality of becoming the 'ole maid'.)


In about 15 days, I will be married 5 years. (Missing my anniversary 3 times, due to Army commitments). I think the only thing I can say negative about marriage is that, I wish I would have married Jessica earlier. Our churches need to desperately reforge a new standard in our youth\college that would encourage younger marriages, and showing how the male/female connection should be encouraged thus reflecting a better understanding of this passage.

Here's my suggestions on how:
1. Reduce the cultural norm of college degrees, by not emphasizing them as something that needs to be accomplished prior marriage.
2. Reduce the stigma of young couples considering marriage as taboo but applauding them in the church as they value 'marriage' over prolonged 'singleness', as a biblical mandate.  
3. Encouraging males/females to develop both domestic and skills that could support a family unit early in child development, not waiting till they are out of High School or College.
4. Young Couples considering marriage should be encouraged to be mentored by more mature/elder married couples as they work through their engagement/first-year of marriage, thus reducing 'isolation stress', if in-laws are not supporting the marriage.
5. Lower the accepted sociological economic status for young couples, by a church wide campaign to try 'ONE-CAR' family or/and presenting a consistent message in regards to child day-care, which is a whole new blog.
6. Refocusing the Great Commission efforts to see internal biological growth as a means whereby we reach the next generation, by equipping our own. (not limiting our reaching to only internal, but just refocusing it to see it as a legitimate area that should see emphasis).



Bottomline: I know that the above is not necessarily a comprehensive list of things that would help, but I think as Christians we need to make the efforts now to start reforging a distinction from the cultural norms that have led the church majority the last 50 years. I write the list of recommendations because, ANYONE can point out a problem and (poop on the table), but I want to address some possible solutions to our problem. So, before you criticize/analyze these points, constructively consider your approach to make additions to solving our issue, not pointing out my personal lack of insight or ignorance. :) Let's reform our 'Christian' understanding of normal.

3.26.2010

Day 74, Experienced and Calmness.

Just the other day, as I was wiping up pee on the floor I had a realization about life. (Odd time I know, but it seems most fitting for my life).

Have you ever noticed that in the midst of cyclonic activities or intense situations that people respond in basically two ways? Either you get anxious and loss your bearings (i.e. making irrational decisions, bouncing between ideas, nothing congruent, poor communication) OR you see a sense of calm and steadfastness. Now, I am not going to say that fear is not present in either case, because I believe that fear still has its role. I am just observing that people respond clearly in those two ways.

I think I know what's the difference. I believe that a person who has gone through a situation knows at least from the previous experience the liberation from the event and a possible end result solution. For instance, I have been to the hospital numerous times to visit sick people, counsel a soldier who just lost a spouse, and even watched several fellow brothers in arms pass. I have seen blood and have heard cries. I get calls at night, just about every week with some counseling or event that needs my presences. Years ago, I would freak out,...make it into something out of proportion and just about have a wreck trying to get to the situation...but now...I know how and what to expect...even though they are all very different situations.

I remember in Ghana Africa one other instance where I just about lost it. We had arrived into a city, where the bus driver basically just dropped us off with no direction or connection on where we would meet our connecting ride. In a split second, I thought I had just lost 9 youth and a Doctor in some remote city in Ghana. Then a much wiser Doctor (Tom Ashburn), who has done 100's of mission trips, just smiled and laughed and seemed to take it in stride. It astonished me then, and it strengthens me to this very day. I want to be that calm reposed man in the midst of the storms, not because I am smart/experienced but I trust ultimately God's hand of providence.

I finished up Clorox-ing the spot where Heidi peed, I resolved that even in this instance I need to take the same initiative. Whether its hospitals or wiping up pee, 'self-control' is what I need. God grant us 'self-control' in the midst of chaos. Grant us assurance to know that the end result is in your hand. Let us make people marvel of our 'calm' in all circumstances, so that they would ask us why we have such 'faith' and 'hope'. Let us not make a mockery of your Sovereignty by losing our true bearings in Christ.

3.22.2010

Day 73, Heading to DC with a saddened heart.

After a splendid weekend, a new Beagle named Heidi, a Worship Service at Trinity Reformed Church, an inquisitive small group, ...hamburgers...several eye catching gazes with my wife,...I am left just asking myself, what could bring my joy down?
At about 0755 this morning my browser opens to reveal the front page paper to Drudgereport, and my heart sank. I admit that I may not know every detail of the outcome of this bill that was passed, but I do know that ultimately that our countries leaders do not seem to value human life. With a vacuous state in my own family, Jessica and I desperately longing to fill with an adopted child, I just can't imagine anything more horrifying than abortion. Something, so senseless when I know of thousands of families who would be eager to bring any of these 'unwanted' home.

I grieve today.

I may be heading to DC this coming week for an Army class. How ironic...to be sent to Arlington...at such a time as this.

3.19.2010

Day 72, Notice Anything Different.

Take a good look at these two photos...do you see anything different? Well, to the untrained eye...you may notice that the left has a dull cross...while the one on the right has a glimmering cross (possible stay-bright). Look closer.

Ok, you give up. The one on the bottom right, actually has a new ribbon. Its not an elaborate change, but none-the-less, its a little change. On March 26, 2010, I will have been in the Army for 12 years...and yes...that little Ribbon (Army Achievement Medal) is actually the first one I have ever received. I remember being a Private First Class in 1998, watching a fellow soldier get one,...and I got so green with jealously. I guess, God's got a sense of humor to teach patience.

Also,...just to for those who read my wife's blog and think she is TOO COOL, and I am just a 'tag-along' in her glory...well look real hard on her web site you WON'T see anything like these APPLES on her site. You might get a little 'flour' and 'sugar' on you though. ahhahaha.

Bottomline: These ribbons/medals are nice to haves in life. But, they don't tell my story or will they be 'who I am'. I give Jesus Christ the praise for what they represent in my life as He is truly the fount of them all. But I place no eternal value on them whatsoever. I would give them all away 100x's over to see more Wixon's and Reid's, Kusyj's, Bowman's, Cowart's, Romick's, Ramos/Hegers, the list goes on and on....those relationships and seeing Christ in them...far outweighs little ribbons. Build a rack for the glory of Christ...

www.rackbuilder.com,...if you want to know what all those mean.


2.27.2010

Day 70, Avatar, Did I 'see' it? (I did but it was called...)

"So, what did you think?" is the reverberating mantra as we all stand out our cushy popcorn laiden seats and grab our mysterious trash. I didn't want to answer because I had such mixed feelings. So, after 48 hours of work, a 3.3 mile run, and a several cups of coffee, ...I think I can write something that is not completely nonsensical. Here's my try.

It took awhile for me to get passed the Ferngully, Dances with Wolves, Never-Ending Story, Star Wars, Zelda and Smurf overtures. Ferngully/Zelda because it seemed I was watching a documentary on the rain forest and how the 'great tree' held everything together in green peace. Dances with Wolves, as the new 'Kevin' be-friends a tribe and eventually goes 'en-gine' (Indian) on the United States Calvary taming the ta-tonka (Buffalo). Never-Ending Story, because who in the world can hang on to any animal and fly. Star Wars because, if you remember in Star Wars I, the Naboo people with Jar-Jar...I truly thought an Ewok/Wookie would be running around in the luminescent backdrop. Finally, the smurfs on roids. Where has our imaginations taken us but to bizarre 'smurf/humans' that have more than idealized bodies.

That's just the ongoing internal references.

From a religious, not so critical perspective, the observation looks like: A clear 'mother-earth' theme, laced with female leadership at all levels, Cycle of life, and the bizarre worship ceremony at the Tree of Souls which looked very similar to Eastern/ Temple of Doom. The ominous LAN (Local Area Network) between the creation and humanity, that is at odds because we have not 'tamed' it. 

Bottomline: As I watched toward the end of the movie, I began to think if this would be something that honors God. Not from a language/partial-nudity aspect, which I found disturbing, but more from a continual blurring of 'green-thought' and what God reveals through Scripture. The problem with the Creation is not bound up in a depletion of resources or over-population. The creation was seen and pronounced by God as good in Genesis. After the Fall, humanity and creation are longing for a state-of-redemption in which the created order is restored, not recycled. We long for resurrected bodies, not absorption (my argument for burial and not cremation). Christians are not Platonist, and should fight the temptation to be drawn in to seeing the body as evil and the soul good. Christ, when he came out of the tomb had his body that was glorified/still had scars.


Would I see it again? I doubt it. As the songs we sing reflects what we believe, I believe Avatar reflects an ever-growing tension of the movie industry trying to direct our thinking through art.  

2.24.2010

Day 69, Blog Wars of 2010, Craven vs. Craven.

I have had a great number of entries to the blogger thus far and feel that I am getting a little more adventurous in my writing. I have just about set a precedence of daily, leisurely, and thoughtful blogs. A good bit of daily hits... Yet, as most of you know, Jessica has just entered the same arena. I showed her around and then just like Wesley stealing the show from Whitfield, Jessica has decided to strategically steal the lime light.

Here's what I have seen in her demise to destroy my empire: I noticed her pulling out blogger maps of recent bloggers. She is constantly trying to foil my writing by bringing me desserts just as I started writing. I also notice her constantly trying to 'be nice' to me when I settled down with a pen and paper to plot my course. The other day I knew something was odd, when she said 'Do you want to play your video games tonight?'...that's just not normal.  After helping her out with the backdrop and HMTL, I figured we had an alliance. BUT....Kind'a like RISK, she instantly took over Australia and started gaining momentum.

The Blog WAR has begun!

Now, Jessica if you are reading this....get ready...I am taking off the gloves. I am going to make sure I bring all the hot chocolate to you when you are writing. I am also going to get you some new 'recipes' to distract you from your blogging. NO MORE MR.NICEGUY! I might send you shopping...just to keep your little fingers off the keyboard...maybe a long back massage...just to lure you to go to bed without blogging. Oh the temptations will be overwhelming...your little novice scribbles that make me chuckle and smile and relish the fact that you are my wife,...will not distract me from my mission to 'SINK YOUR BATTLESHIP'.

Bottomline: A Tension has risen here in the Craven Household. Readers beware! A He Said -She Said is about to hit the blogsphere. Who know's what topic will be drawn...a battle over "Wits and Wagers". And we both know who has the most of those two!!! Buahahahahahahahah.

2.23.2010

Day 68, A Landmark Day.

About 365 days ago, I was sitting at FOB Falcon in Baghdad, Iraq working of filling out one of the first forms in our adoption. I remember walking to the Chow hall talking to some guys trying to explain that Jessica and I had finally made the first real decision and now it was going to be a long haul before we see some major results.

Not to get your hopes up, we did not get a child just yet, but we are definitely at a point in the adoption that needs some celebration. At 0800 this morning, our profile is officially posted at our Adoption Agency Web site, which is where mothers can view our family profile.

This sets into motion a major thing for us. For right now, this very hour, we could be receiving a phone call that would revolutionize our family. Within a short period of time today to about 4 months (estimate) we should be matched and possibly flying back to the states to hold the new Craven. How cool is that?

Celebrate with us.

Also join us in beginning to pray for Jessica and I as we begin to pray for the spiritual aspects of parenting and fostering a child in the way of the Lord, in hopes that God would grant our child faith unto salvation. Adoption parallels so closely the doctrine of election, it just forces me to my knees already for my children. By His Grace, we pray that we can see not only 'birth', but 're-birth' in our children.

Search families for us at :www.americanadoptions.com. For us, you might get a snicker at our goofy photos, and you might get a burden to adopt....be careful. ahhahaha.

2.22.2010

Day 67, Conversations that Change Us: Predestination

Sunday night a good friend of mine who is a West Point Graduate, and Battery Commander (Pretty Sharp dude) said, "Hey, I have got a question for you...What do you think about predestination?" Now, in many circles this would be resolved with two likely responses.
1. "Well, I think we should just leave those doctrines that divide the churches alone and focus on what really matters."
2. "Well, I have never really nailed down what I believe and thus will continue talking to eventually change the subject."

I chose neither.

I could tell that he had really been thinking about this. This was not one of those 'stump the chump' questions. I smiled and decided I would let him fill out the question and talk his way through it. As he did so, I would smile and put a guard rail or would give him what various views were. His eyes widened as he just began to have a huge dialogue with himself. I could tell his conversation was shaking and solidifying some ideas. I said very little.

I smiled at the end of his self discovery. This conversation had shaped his thinking. I just was able to watch it happen in front of me.

Bottomline: Sometimes we can just be the quiet one and sometimes we need to be teacher. I am always humbled though when God begins to reveal Scripture to people and they have that "AH-HA!" moment right in front of me.

***Now what are my feelings about 'Predestination' you may ask yourself. My answer is simple. It took about 6 years to come to my convictions about it. It all started with a conversation with a guy named Paul, in Romans 9. I was 23 years old. I had a huge conversation with myself and God for 6 years.

2.21.2010

Day 66, 11:41 PM Saturday Night, Starting a New Sabbath Habit.

I have been thinking the ole Sabbath theory through for quite sometime. Do I think that it was a law that was fulfilled in Christ? (St. Augustine's View) Do I feel that I can do 'Holy Work' on the Sabbath? Is Saturday or Sunday the Sabbath? What constitutes 'rest' from work? Can I go outside and pick up sticks without sinning? You may not think about these things, but I challenge you to look at your view of 'keeping the Sabbath'?

What does the Christian do in the 21st Century? Do you go out to eat after church? Do you drop by Wal-mart? Do you turn on the stove and cook? If you are a minister, do you think Monday constitutes a resting day? What if Monday turns into just sit around and do things that I didn't get accomplished on Saturday?

I feel that we are to do something on the Sabbath. We are to rest and recognize that the work of Jesus Christ was sufficient on the Cross and that there is no 'extra' work to be done. Therefore, we should make every effort to rest from work. Now, what does that look like?

I don't know. What I do know is that Sunday or your Sabbath, if you keep it, should look very different from the rest of the week. We should make a conscious effort to focus on the work of Christ. How will the Craven family do that?

Well, I think I am going to do 'rest' from Blogging, Computer, Xbox and other things that I know eat up a majority of my day and my thinking. I think reading the Scriptures and prayer should be more of my focus. How will I hold up this? Who knows?

Bottomline: How do you keep the Sabbath at your house? What makes your  "S-Day" any different? How do you keep it Holy? Or do you have other thoughts on the Law here? I am game to hear it.

2.18.2010

Day 65, I Know Why My Dad Smoked a Pipe.

About 8 years ago, I picked up my dad's old pipe and packed it full of some Half and Half pipe tobacco, got a an ole Bic lighter and fired up my first bowl. I was sitting on top of my porch roof in Seminary. It was a cold night, but I didn't care. I had had just about enough stress for the week, and just thought a little nostalgia would ease the moment.

Oddly enough. It did.

Since then, I am the most infrequent smoker known to man. I literally by pipe tobacco and forget where I put when I get home. So, if you think I am an addict or I have a smoking problem, I would gladly dismiss your accusations.

But, I will admit this. I know exactly why my dad would pack a bowl, retreat to the back porch, pet a partially retarded golden retriever, and pensively look off to a lightly traveled dirt road. I never saw him smoke out of nervousness, even though I am sure he did, ...the pipe seemed to be a 7-12 minute pause in life...a time of reflection, gathering of thoughts,...making decisions,...or just enjoying a eurphoric aroma of maybe his good memories of his own dad....who knows.

For me in 2010, I say its probably not a daily habit for me or even a monthly one, but I a pause and reflection sounds pretty stink'n good right now.

Bottomline: There's no real spiritual formulation of smoking, and I probably should make sure people see that I am not encouraging it. I guess by in large, I am encouraging a good moment in the course of chaos to stop, take a deep breath, clear your head. Then in about 7-12 minutes, see how much better you feel.

**

2.16.2010

Day 64, The Animal was Stopped Today.


I am sure as the Titanic sank into the Atlantic, someone was regretting the word, "unsinkable." Well today, my ego sank quickly as the Ford Explorer sat crippled for the first time in over a 1 foot 1/2 of snow. A tear trickled down my face, as I realized my baby was officially stuck.

The Background: For about 3 months it has been snowing in the Land of Germany. About every weekend we get our 4 to 6 inches without fail. The temperatures edge above 30 on a hot day, but most of the time hover around 23 all day long. So, the snow has piled up in just about every place imaginable. Up till this morning, I saw all these mounds of snow as potential conquest for my Explorer. With a magical push of a button, she would transform into a vicious beast that could tear through anything. I would almost stand outside my little apartment and taunt the gods if they couldn't dish out more snow for PT tomorrow. NOTHING COULD STOP THE 4x4!

I even admit that I would have dreams of my adventures where I would be rescuing people from their primitive front wheel drive cars, as I stood in triumph pulling them out. I would beat on my bare chest and YAWP! (Dead Poets Society, quote) YES...it was that bad.

But at 0621 Berlin Standard Time, this romanticized view of life ended in a series of spins and a frustrated turning off the engine in utter defeat. She is liberated now, but that 1/2 hour sitting was as shocking as watching Apollo Creed fall to the gigantic Russian. I was undone.

Bottomline: I am sure we all have things that we feel are indestructible. Something that makes us feel greater than we are. But isn't it amazing that anything like this is always subject to failure in light of some of just time. A simple discovery in life is to realize that everything you have, brand new today, will decay. Nothing will give a lasting sense of 'security'. There is only one thing in this world that is not subject to change,...Christ Jesus. Take a look around you to see what you place your 'ego' into: looks, fame, money, materials, education. How many of those things have a lasting shelf life?

2.15.2010

Day 63, Young Minister's Goals.

A Classic Craven Moment, at FOB Falcon. My impression of Billy Sunday ranting.
 
I think it is safe to say that I am no longer a novice to ministry. I am no expert as of yet, but I feel that I can at least encourage 'younger' minister's with this list of things to be mindful.

TOP 10 GOALS OF YOUNG MINISTERS ( in no particular order)
1. Get to know the Janitor of the church and love him to death. He will be your bread and butter.

2. People are typically not easy to read when you first get to a church/Duty Station. Don't show your cards completely.

3. Love your wife, more than your congregation. This is a safe-guard for later, and also helps establish a 'help-mate' in ministry. She will relax, if she knows your heart.

4. Give all money and financial responsibilities to a trusted elder/adult. Never pass money to anyone, simply defer, "I don't take care of that, Mrs. Smith is our financial secretary."

5. If you work with a staff, which you probably will, encourage them. Visit them in their office. Talk with them regarding their spiritual walk. See everything you do in light of the 'overall' goal/mission of the church. Don't be a lonewolf.

6. Read. Read. Read. Never forsake your daily reading of Scripture. Its called, "A Pastor's Study", for a reason. STUDY. Order books and surround yourself with them.

7. Get a calendar on your desk, on your computer, and a daily planner. Constantly, sync them. Always know whats going on in the church, not just your ministry.

8. Go to a conference once a year with your wife, no church people. I encourage you go to a Pastor's Conference. You will be surprised when you surround yourself with other ministers who are in the same boat you are. Always Refreshing.

9. Preach Teach Expositionally or on a rigid schedule. The reason here is simple. When you get frustrated, you will typically say things from the pulpit that sounds like 'ranting' if you haven't been forced to stay with a passage of Scripture. This will be a great guard for any pastor.

10. Take a vacation and forget your cell phone. LEAVE IT. TURN IT OFF. GO OFF THE GRID. Don't Facebook/Email/Blog/whatever. Go get a sabbatical rest somewhere with your family.

**11. Visit people by taking them to lunch or coffee. Bring them to your house. Show them you that your human.

This list could go on and on, but those are definitely my top 10.
(note: The ranting preacher, is mild in comparison to what I have been known to do when I am not staging photos)

2.13.2010

Day 62, Overly Valuing Gray, Part I


"Its not a gift, it is merely technique." Ask any artist of charcoal or pencil, and you will hear this statement in regards to what many people call, "shading." Basically, its the ability to gradually move from a black to white without obvious steps of gradation. A snooty word for it is "Chiaroscuro". That's about the only thing I remember from my Art Education degree.

But truly, with enough time and patience a student can easily learn the right cross-hatching patterns to create such a smooth well-blended surface to compete with any renown Master. I believe this so much that in my private lessons, I will spend hours teaching anyone the proper rendering of sphere on a table. Ultimately, if you can shade a sphere correctly, you can make any object appear realistic in regards to light.

In American popular culture, the ability of blending black and white to an indistinguishable gray has almost become a masterful value that is been heightened to virtuosity. Let me explain. In any opinion on a subject matter, it seems that a person is only seen as tolerable when a position of neutrality is given. This is what I am calling, "Gray". Sadly, its almost a race between parties to this punchline. I am not talking about compromise or settling differences, I am issuing in the thought that the party itself will not value its own position, but will move directly to a position of 'no conflict'. By doing this, the end result is not a conclusion of sorts, but a confusion. Neither positions can distinguish from where they came.

Here's a simple example: In my circles it is not difficult to hear of doctrinal distinctions. Chaplains must work with varying denominations and world religions. Yet, in many instances, when discussions arise about differences many (not all) want to make sure that a 'peaceable' solution is met quickly. Thus, a gravitation to the middle or Gray. There is no doubt in my mind, that many of the Chaplains mean well and quite possibly are avoiding an explosive or divisive discussion. Yet, what if this becomes the norm on a day in and day out discussion. Would the Chaplains value their personal doctrinal positions or will they gravitate to the center, where it seems more virtuous to uphold the ambiguity of what we believe? My fear would be that years would pass and the 'overly valuing of the middle' would become our doctrinal position, and we would forget what truly makes us distinct.

Of course, think about how this plays out into your life. Think about your convictions on homosexuality, your convictions on life in the womb, your convictions on views of history, your convictions on gender roles, your convictions on competing religions..etc.

Bottomline: Does God want us to have differences of opinion without any foundation reason to support them? Is Christ honored, when we race to mutual agreement when facts and convictions have been blurred beyond recognition? On the opposite side, can we hold a position firmly without destroying the unity of the Church? How do you know when a position should be taken so strongly as to cause division?

2.11.2010

Day 61, Back in the Saddle with Purpose.

Last night, Jessica launched her new blogger page and I am uber interested to see how far she will push herself to share her thoughts with so many. With this new challenge to our family, I feel the accountability for me will be heightened. I suppose a little 'friendly-competition' could be fostered.

So, for all of you who are reading my thoughts and see how accurately they portray our family, feel free to cross-over to the 'SHE SAID' hemisphere of the blogging world. The link is provided in my favorites blogs on the right column.

****THE REFORMED CHAPLAIN****

Yesterday afternoon, I sent off my Nehemiah Commentary to Lifeway to be looked at and prayerfully published in some upcoming Student Material that is debuting in the Summer. Although the labor of writing the material had its definite ups and downs it did stir in me a desire to do more writing, but this time in a particular field without the 'guidelines' that are attached to lesson writing.

Therefore, I am going start on a project. So this weekend, a little brainstorming on what I feel God has already placed on my heart. Where this road will lead, who knows?

Bottomline: Don't take a lot of medication and jump on Blogger and think you will pen anything of significance.

1.31.2010

Day 60, Harmonizing and Being Authentic


Today, I stood in front of a Chapel of people to give the announcements and other small Chaplain like duties. Instead of prayerfully considering what was going on around me, I began to day dream about this thought. What if these people are reading my blog or my journal or they see me at my house or they have coffee with me at the CMR or see me at a Command Staff Meeting or play XBOX with me online?

The question came: AM I THE SAME PERSON IN ALL THESE VARIOUS VENUES?

Does the John Craven that blogs about pooping/Jenny McCarthy/Adoption and other very obscure topics, harmonize with the John Craven that loves expositional preaching, John Owen, smoking a Pipe? Is this John Craven who loves to pet Rhodesian Ridgeback dogs, be the same one that counsels marriages?

I recognize we all have very different places we live and work. I am not talking about those differences. I am talking about a almost schizophrenia lifestyle that is created by the almost endless mediums one communicates in throughout the day. My greatest desire is that this person, John Craven, is not just the same,...but is portraying the genuine love of Christ.

Bottomline:Christ throughout his life never shows a Jekyll and Hyde idea. The guy whipping in the temple was the same guy forgiving a thief as his own blood dried on nails driven through his wrist. Jesus was the same yesterday today and forever. Therefore, does my facebook status that changes often reflect the consistency of my Savior...or do I reflect the same ebb and flow of a world that does not truly find their satisfaction in Him.

1.30.2010

Day 59, The Decay of Manners, Can be an Unexpected Blessing


**Caution: This may be disturbing for people of high standards of manners***
In the military, we have something called, "Hail and Farewells". It is a semi-formal affair where the upper level leaders of a unit come together to 'Hail' all the new guys to the unit, and 'Farewell' all the guys who will be departing. A meal, short speeches, a couple of jokes and you leave. A 'SEMI-FORMAL' event,...so you must be on your 'A-Game' in the Manners department.

Now for some reason this past week, at one of ours, I had eaten something during the day...that had not completely settled in my stomach. The entire night was a constant uncomfortable bloating sensation that thought would never cease. I was looking forward to great expectations to leave the speeches, and get in the car and get home. As the night wrapped up, we got in the car,...along with some people who had hopped in for the ride for a brief 12 minute ride home.

YET, thinking I could remain vigil for the entire trip, the comforts of home surrounded me as I sat in the Explorer and I completely forgot that we had guest. Needless to say, I leaned to the left, to ease my stomach problem...not realizing the eruption that would occur. Jessica immediately responds with , "JOHN!"...I was taken back myself,...rolling down the window etc.

Although, the moment was embarrassing let me proceed with a bizarre thought. Our guest have long since been our neighbors and friends, and I think at times WE, as individuals, like to keep our dignity, which may lead to a bizarre piety or pompousness. After this awkward moment, our friends began to laugh and the small talk was over,...in 12 minutes we had one of the greatest conversations that may have not had the greatest 'topic', but it did have a fine transparency that I believe can not be matched.

Bottomline: Be Careful about guarding your intimate details and building walls that will not allow people to see that you are human. I am not advocating an age of decadence, but a few moments where people can see you 'AS YOU ARE'. This vulnerability often couples with intimacy. Just think, the people you love the most,...often have seen you at your worst and still love YOU. I know Christ has seen me far worse than anyone, and yet he still extends his grace to a terrible sinner like me.

1.25.2010

Day 58, Recovering and Sour Milk.

After several days of being away from the Ole Blogger, I am getting back in the saddle again. Jessica's surgery is over and she is healing wonderfully. Although, I have seen that she has learned that if she 'looks' like she is in pain, I will just about stop anything I am doing to tend to her beckoning call. Yet, after the third or fourth trip to the kitchen for a spoon, bedroom for a book, office for the lappy,...I have noticed that these ailments generally disappear in the presences of a certain niece of ours calling on Skype. At the sound of Skype ringing, my wife miraculously can leap to her feet, dart through the halls effortlessly,...point click, situate, and watch on web cam our niece, Hannah. I typically, stand utterly amazed, as once she is seated enjoying the show, I scratch my head and wonder from whence did this vivacious woman arise? Nothing short of a miracle, I suppose.

Furthermore I have just about finished my commentary on the book of Nehemiah for Lifeway, which leads me to my next comment. Writing is very laborious, if done correctly. Therefore, after researching, proofing, writing, editing, and then rereading my creative garbled pseudo-scholarly work...I am empty for the blogging world. This became very evident after 2 weeks of working feverishly on this Commentary. Blogging, although quite enjoyable, was almost like flossing my teeth (which I detest with a passion).

Now, a couple weeks have passed and several general rules of life have etched into my brain, which leaves me quite excited for this week of blogging. I suppose a 'vacation' can do that. Everything to my souring milk in my 'frothing' machine to listening to John Piper while I was working out....we have much to talk about.

Bottomline: Get back in the Saddle. Do what God has called you to do. Quit making excuses, jump in...and find what true joy awaits you. OH, and Tim Wixon and Randy Dobson,...you guys are my heros.

1.11.2010

Day 57, Crazy Feelings of Anxiety

Laboring away at the ole commentary on Nehemiah, I have been humbled many times as I am struggling over and over again with my personal understanding or definition of what true leadership is.

Despite my current efforts to write scholarly after 2100 (9:00 P.M.), I decided to fall back on faithful blogging.

Therefore, I will just tell you the truth right now. Jessica is going into the hospital tomorrow here in Germany, and I am a little anxious about it. I am not scared for myself or the procedure, I am just concerned for my wife. I have not had kids yet, but I am sure that first day of school for your 'first born' is quite rattling. And in a very bizarre way, I want to somehow save Jessica all the pain and uncomfortableness of this entire episode. For some odd reason, I would rather MUCH rather me deal with this than her. That's what is bothering me.

On the other side of my heart, is a strong desire this week to look very intently again at my calling. In about 6 days, Jessica and I will have our Anniversary in the Army Chaplaincy Active Duty...2 YEARS. I think its appropriate to struggle through the affections of my heart to see if this is what God has truly called me to do. It is not doubt, but introspection.

Please pray for us this week as Jessica will be going into the hospital tomorrow, and I will be roaming Germany in search of food and shelter.

Bottomline: Its not good for man to be alone. (The first malediction in the Bible.)

1.09.2010

Day 56, Wrestling with Nehemiah

During the late 90's, I was just finishing up college when the popular trend of Evangelical Christianity shifted to emphasizing 'Leadership' as its primary. If you remember this era, you might recall the numerous books that John Maxwell published in this frenzy. Almost all the writings were centralized around the book of Nehemiah and Ezra. Youth Camps, Discipleship materials, any extra conferences were somehow centralized on Nehemiah. To be frank, I grew very upset with the almost tunnel vision approach of the church on this character. From the 90's through the first decade of the 21st Century, this Nehemiah character is unveiled again, not with the leadership focus, but on his ability to convey vision and build. AND THUS, many churches across the SBC, used this theme to create slogans and mottos surrounding 'church building campaigns'.

Frustrated in my heart, I grew to almost despise the story. I rarely would even read Ezra and Nehemiah in my readings. Not feeling I was better than them, but I could dare get passed the 'night survey that Nehemiah did' with out being whisked away to 100's of talks that I had either given or heard, regarding Leadership.

NOW, 10 years later. My assignment from Lifeway is to write a LEADERSHIP COMMENTARY on Nehemiah. Isn't the Lord funny? Two weeks ago, when I learned the details of the assignment, I almost cringed...yet then a spark of light. This is what I realized.
In God's gracious wisdom, I can now reflect on passages in light of my experience and more mature insight. My personal grudge against this passage may strain me to truly look more intent to see the richness beyond a leadership motif. Possibly, a more Theo-centric view or a ribbon of grace to point to Christ further down the road in the New Testament. Who knows?

I have four major sections to begin today on. I am eager to see what God's timeless truths can change in this cynical/skeptical/pessimistic/sinful young man. No doubt in my mind I need Him to change me.

Bottomline:
Lord forgive me for being arrogant to think that your Word is to be danced around. Lord help me to embrace the riches of the book of Nehemiah. I cringe as I wrote this morning realizing just how vain I am, humble me I pray to read/write encouraging words to people who need to see that the Scriptures are sufficient in all ways pertaining our Salvation.

1.06.2010

Day 55, The Adoption Support Begins.


Dear Family and Friends,
Jessica and I have finally crossed the point in the adoption process where we feel as a couple that it is appropriate to begin to call our Christian brothers and sisters to support our adoption.

Since our first date climbing Stone Mountain, July 16, 2004, Jessica and I have been planning our family through adoption. First, in the seed of conversation. Second, in the labor of plowing paperwork. And now, almost 5 years later, this has become a reality.

The Lord has been more than gracious to us to prepare for this adoption financially. Virtually all of our deployment money has gone into preparing for this. Yet, through prayer we feel that it is time to give the Church, the followers of Christ, an opportunity to not only support 'The Craven's', but ADOPTION itself.

A young lady in Barbourville Kentucky said it best to us, "If you are PRO-LIFE, then you must be PRO-ADOPTION." This one statement and many others have set our hearts on fire for this.

SO, What's the Bottomline?:
Its pretty simple. The new widget that you see directly to the side on the RIGHT labeled, "OUR ADOPTION" is one way to support. You can mail direct to our address (listed below). Or if you have a heap load of FLYER MILES, we would gladly take use those as well, as we will be flying to the states for the birth, and then back to Germany.

That's it. Support Our Adoption, get your Sunday School Class or local Church to donate. Help us finish the race, and bring a 'little Craven' home.

Mailing Address:
CPT Craven, John L.
CMR 405 Box 2462
APO, AE
09034

or email us, cravenfamily2005@gmail.com.

1.04.2010

Day 54, Jenny McCarthy Kick My Butt Tonight.


As many of you may know, we Army soldiers are fit and rugged and can't be stomped into the ground by anyone who doesn't have a Ranger Tab. I mean, seriously, I wake up,...go do PT at 6:30 for 1 hour, then typically after work run 4 miles just to stay fit for the fight that keeps us safe. ((Doesn't hurt to look good for the gal at home either)).

Yet, this evening, instead of going for my run, I dawned my PT's and turned on our Wii to try a new exercise system we got called, "Your Shape". Its simple. A video camera captures you on one window, Jenny McCarthy Avatar barks orders at you on the left window. While the exercises is happening, a constant feed on how you are doing is being sent in through the feed on the camera. I thought it sound preposterous and decided to show this system what a 34 year old, United States Army Captain can do.

Choosing Advanced, Cardio, 30 minutes. I put the controller down and started the program. NOW...before I continue. God speaks to all us in mysterious ways. Tonight, in about 28 minutes, I had a vision. I saw a vicious Avatar with a Trident, red suit, yelling and screaming as I was perishing in a quadriceps burning hell. YES,...PAIN. I tell you. PAIN...then....POOF! It was over...

Sweaty back, front, face red, lactic acid overdose,...I slumped to the Culligan water oasis for my break. Jessica laughed,...I wanted to warn her like the Rich man to his brothers, but I couldn't...I want her to feel the wrath of Jenny tomorrow.

Bottomline: Wii, Your Shape. Two Thumbs up! Got some glitches but its worth it. I am feeling the burn. Maybe when the Army realizes that Crossfit is too ridiculously expensive, we will all get Wii's with Drill Sergeant McCarthy.

1.02.2010

Day 53, Preparing for Overseas Flights.

Amongst (love that catchy word) the clatter regarding the "Christmas Day Terrorist", Jessica and I still had a flight to catch on December 31st. Being told multiple times by the media and relatives that early arrival would be best, we proceeded to arrive about 4 hours prior our boarding. (Not a bad idea).

We went right through with no terrible problems. The typical, Chaplain Screening, is always my favorite. You know they aren't profiling, when a white 30-something, male gets nabbed just about every trip. A clear, MAM.(for all you military guru's).

Anywho, here's where the blog begins. Jessica and I grab some window seats on the way back to Germany, thanks to Expedia. Then we get out the headsets and dawn the ear-plugs...yes, we double up...SUPER QUIET. This is where we thought we could definitely keep our senses privatized. BUT, wait...yes there are 5 senses.

The seats directly in front of Jessica and I had a lovely German couple, 30-somethings, with two toddlers/babies. Not long after the plane breaks away from the terminal, KINDER#1, decides to fill his diaper. Instantly noticing the odor, the mother makes an attempt to clean him,...diaper wipes...poo...etc...now fill the cabin.
45 minutes later, while dinner is being served, KINDER #2, sees the opportunity to chime in, and thus manufactures a quite sizable payload as well. Thus, filling the entire 767 with all kinds of joy.

I pause here, not upset at the children. I love children, and do pray that I will changing dirty diapers soon. But, a simple question does need to be asked:

DOES ANYONE THINK ABOUT WHAT THEY EAT PRIOR YOUR OVERSEAS FLIGHT?
google: foods that cause gas.

* Apples
* Artichokes
* Asparagus
* Beans
* Broccoli
* Brussel Sprouts
* Cabbage
* Cheese
* Corn
* Fruit Drinks
* Ice Cream
* Milk and Milk Products
* Onions
* Pasta
* Peaches
* Pears
* Potatoes
* Prunes
* Soft Drinks
* Whole Wheat

Bottomline: Show kindness to all people on the plane. Don't consume anything on the list, before the flight. Also, if you are a victim of this and have any ideas on how to thwart this and create some type of 'shield',...I am sure I would gladly purchase: DIAPER-ODOR CANCELLING HEAD/NOSEPHONES